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COOLBAUGH v. INSABELLA

October 18, 2005.

JOANN and MICHAEL COOLBAUGH, Plaintiffs,
v.
STEPHANIE and MARION INSABELLA, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MUNLEY, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition is Plaintiffs' Appeal of the Clerk of Courts' Decision on Plaintiff's Amended Bill of Costs. This matter has been briefed fully and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, we will deny the appeal.

Background

  On November 17, 2004, following a civil jury trial, this court entered judgment for plaintiffs and against defendants in the amount of $7,500.00. Plaintiffs filed a bill of costs seeking to be reimbursed by the defendants for Clerk's fees, deposition costs, witness fees/mileage and copying.

  The Clerk taxed costs in favor of plaintiffs but only in the amount of $949.87, more than a thousand dollars less than plaintiffs had sought. The Clerk refused to award several costs claimed by plaintiffs. First, the Clerk rejected plaintiff's claim of $580.00 for videotaped deposition of a witness because according to Local Rule 54.4(3), such a cost cannot be taxed without prior court approval. Next, the Clerk reduced a $98.86 claim for a witness's travel expenses to $75.00, since witness travel may be taxed only up to a 200-mile round-trip maximum. Finally, she stripped nearly all taxation of plaintiffs' copying costs due to insufficient identification of documents and their purposes. The only exception was $172.27, which the Clerk taxed for photocopying plaintiffs' medical records.

  Plaintiffs' Appeal seeks an additional $1,056.88, which would bring the total taxation of costs to $2,006.55. Plaintiffs assert that the Clerk of Courts erred in excluding the following from the taxation of costs: 1) $580.00 for videotaping the deposition of a witness, Dr. Horchos; 2) $425.80 for making 2129 copies of documents filed with the court and for trial; and 3) $50.88 for enlargement of a trial exhibit. We will address these issues in seriatim.

  Discussion

  "Except when express provision therefor is made either in a statute of the United States or in these rules, costs other than attorneys' fees shall be allowed as of course to the prevailing party unless the court otherwise directs. . . ." FED. R. CIV. P. 54(d)(1). In hearing an appeal of an award of costs, we employ a de novo standard of review over an "essentially ministerial task" of the Clerk of Courts. In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB, 221 F.3d 449 (3d Cir. 2000). The party appealing the Clerk's decision bears the burden of "persuading the court that it was improper." 10 CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHUR R. MILLER, FEDERAL RULES OF PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 2679 (3d ed. 2005).

  1. Videotape deposition

  First, the plaintiffs allege that they are entitled to be reimbursed by the defendants for the cost of videotaping the deposition of Dr. Horchos for use at trial. They argue such taxation is acceptable if the videotaping is necessary for the case and if they also do not request taxation for stenographer's transcripts of the deposition. Plaintiffs cite FED. R. CIV. P. 30(b) and Herbst v. General Accident Ins. Co., Civ. No. 97-8085, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11952, *5-6 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 21, 2000) for this assertion.

  The Clerk of Courts denied this request as the expenses incurred in videotaping depositions may not be taxed without prior court approval. In support of her position, the Clerk of Courts cited Local Rule (L.R.) 54.4. After a careful review, we are in agreement with the Clerk of Courts.

  The Middle District of Pennsylvania Rules of Court provide as follows: "Fees for videotaped depositions may not be taxed without prior court approval." L.R. 54.4(3). Plaintiffs have not provided us any authority to the contrary. Rather, their position is that the court did provide prior court approval by allowing plaintiffs to present Dr. Horchos testimony via videotape. Plaintiffs have provided no legal support for finding a nexus between allowing a party to present videotape testimony and granting a party approval for taxing the cost of a videotape deposition. Logically, the two matters simply are not equivalent. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' position is rejected.

  In the alternative, the plaintiffs seek to recover the cost of the written transcript of Dr. Horchos testimony, $115.20. The law allows for the taxation of "fees of the court reporter for all or any part of the stenographic transcript necessarily obtained for use in the case." 28 U.S.C. § 1920(2). We will deny plaintiffs' claim on this issue. Plaintiffs have not established that such a transcript was necessary considering the fact that the ...


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